Ramp up the dairy and experiment with temperatures.
Preparing ahead of time will only help you out so much, though. Much more critical is how you cope after the fact—after the hot sauce has torched your face and sizzled your insides. “Usually, I don’t do anything,” explains Dewitt, his badassery remaining intact. “But if I’m really burned out, I drink some heavy cream and swirl it around in my mouth.”
Milk (or cream) seems to be the most often-utilized salve for hot sauce wounds. Indeed, milk is much better than water for cooling your mouth. “I’m all about the science,” Beck explains. “Capsaicin is an oily substance by nature, so something fatty will bind with it, to help it go away. I prefer whole milk. The fat in the milk will get rid of the capsaicin that hasn’t latched on to your nerve endings, and there’s a protein in dairy products called ‘casein’ that have a detergent effect on the burn.”
Beck has been know to even take it a step further and do the “gallon challenge” afterward—literally drinking an entire gallon of milk. Though that seems just as painful as the hottest of spice sizzle, he explains the philosophy behind his vomit-inducing technique: "It helps with the burn and gets you to puke out the evil edibles before you get gut bombed. If you chug the milk fast enough it will even come back up cold, which feels pretty good when your mouth feels like it’s melting.”
If cold milk works well, other creamy, dairy options are just as cooling—think ice creams and frozen yogurts. “If I’m going for a serious, extreme heat, like taking a big bite out of a fresh pepper, my backup will be some vanilla ice cream,” Millerline tells me. “You get hot, then cold. Win, win.”
Carbo loading is a formidable defense.
Capsaicin is a fat soluble chemical and has a long hydrocarbon tail. It binds strongly with lipoprotein receptors in the cell walls of fatty foods like milk and ice cream. But there are some more mundane cooling methods our experts also opt for.
“If I know I'm eating something seriously spicy—like my favorite enchiladas with extra Death Sauce—I’ll make sure I have something starchy,” says Millerline. That might mean breads, potatoes, pasta, and even white rice. No wonder the latter is always available with spicy curries and other Indian foods. These kinds of foods are able—to a degree—absorb the spicy oils doing all the damage.
Feel the (alcohol) burn.
My belief in the restorative power of beer isn’t completely wrong come to find out, as capsaicin does actually dissolve in certain alcohols. But only if it’s of a higher proof. Amiel Stanek, a Bon Appétit editor, was surprised to find out how well vodka worked on killing the heat, though he notes: “I’m sure some of the success is because it made me feel a lot more mellow about having a burning mouth.”
More arcane recommendations, not cited by any hot sauce experts I talked to, would seem to include peppermint tea and ginger root, either raw, in ginger ale, or in tablet/capsule form. MedlinePlus recommends both for helping reduce post-spicy food-related heartburn, acid reflux, and even vomiting and motion sickness.
Perhaps, though, we’re thinking a little too hard about this whole hot sauce thing. What fun is being so prepared? “[After a taping of Hot Ones], I just go home, crank the A/C and throw on some basketball shorts,” Evans tells me. “It’s an excuse to chill and, after 40 episodes, I look forward to those lazy evenings on the couch.”
Klaus agrees, thinking recovery is mostly a mental challenge.
“When you are actually burning, time is your friend,” he tells me. “Most of the pain sits in your brain and the way you tackle that. I sometimes compare hot chiles with winter bathing—if you throw a 17-year-old into cold water she will scream like crazy, but an old woman would swim like nothing bothers her. It’s all in the brain. Maybe have a couch nearby to lay on and think a little bit about your life too.”